Eating Meat and Not Vaccinating: In Defense of the Analogy

Bioethics 35 (2):135-142 (2021)
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The devastating impact of the COVIDÔÇÉ19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic is prompting renewed scrutiny of practices that heighten the risk of infectious disease. One such practice is refusing available vaccines known to be effective at preventing dangerous communicable diseases. For reasons of preventing individual harm, avoiding complicity in collective harm, and fairness, there is a growing consensus among ethicists that individuals have a duty to get vaccinated. I argue that these same grounds establish an analogous duty to avoid buying and eating most meat sold today, based solely on a concern for human welfare. Meat consumption is a leading driver of infectious disease. Wildlife sales at wet markets, bushmeat hunting, and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are all exceptionally risky activities that facilitate disease spread and impose immense harms on human populations. If there is a moral duty to vaccinate, we also should recognize a moral duty to avoid most meat. The paper concludes by considering the implications of this duty for policy.

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Ben Jones
Pennsylvania State University


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